There is a reason why traditional medicines and its methods pass from one generation to the next, and tea tree oil is no different. Hailing from the melaleuca tree, native to Australia, tea tree is an extremely popular essential oil around the world. Its uses are widespread and also the focal point for a myriad of ongoing scientific research.
Melaleuca alternifolia is the scientific name for the melaleuca tree, and the term is interchangeable with tea tree, so don’t be confused when you see either name on products. In use for over 100 years by aboriginal tribes down under, tea tree oil is unique in its wide range of healing properties. Even the lagoons in Australia, where the leaves fell and decayed, were considered places of healing.
This essential, or volatile, oil is readily available in both direct form or blended with other oils. The antimicrobial properties of melaleuca oil are well known and implemented as the active ingredient in many antiseptics, but the anti-inflammatory traits also make the oil effective against a variety of skin conditions.
Concentrated tea tree oil production involves extracting the oil by crushing the leaves and tips of tree branches and distilling the mixture. Don’t go planting a melaleuca tree in the backyard just yet – melaleuca is not ready for harvest for a good three years, and the extraction process yields at a 1 – 2% rate (meaning you only get 1% oil for all the work!)
Keep it Neat
“Neat” is the term used when an essential oil is not diluted in a carrier oil or mixed with other oils. Very few essentials are safe to use in their pure form, but tea tree oil is safe for spot treatments. Here is a quick overview of uses for neat tea tree oil:
- Acne – Battle those blemishes with a drop of tea tree oil, but just a drop. Too much oil at once could cause skin irritation.
- Minor cuts and scrapes don’t stand a chance at infection with a little TTO (tea tree oil). The antibacterial properties fight off infectious bacteria in advance.
- Athlete’s foot and other fungal issues can be addressed with a few drops of TTO. Make sure the area is clean first and cover the affected region with a light layer before heading to bed.
- Blisters, including those from chicken pox, can also benefit from melaleuca by the drop.
- Boils are painful but covering them with a warm washcloth for a few minutes prior to applying oil brings the infection to the surface and draws it out.
- Cold and canker sores improve when a drop of TTO is placed on a cotton swab and dabbed directly on to the sore twice a day.
There are plenty more uses out there, but if you have particularly sensitive skin, going neat may be too much to handle. Not to worry, there are other options!
When Dilution is the Solution
Many topical uses for melaleuca oil involve diluting the pure essence. Since oil and water do not mix well, have a carrier oil on hand. Grapeseed, sunflower, or almond oil are all great bases, and easily accessible. Let’s get you kick-started with a few great ideas for TTO and their dilutions:
- Arthritis medications are every-changing and giving yourself options for pain management while adjusting or transitioning is important. Dilute about twenty drops of TTO with two ounces of carrier oil and massage into the painful regions for gentle relief.
- Get allergy relief by massaging diluted TTO on the chest, abdomen and reflex points, like the feet.
- Calluses, corns, and bunions all benefit from five drops of TTO mixed with just one tablespoon of carrier oil.
- Treat shingles by adding fifteen drops of oil to a warm bath, using Epsom salts as a carrier to help the oil disperse. No time for a soak? Try massaging the area with a dilution of ten drops TTO to a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil.
Tea tree oil is already found diluted in a variety of lotions, shampoos and facial treatment products so embrace this all-purpose oil and its flexibility.
Breathe it in: Inhalation Uses
While tea tree oil is toxic when ingested, inhaling the essence is safe. Add a few drops to your air diffuser to help freshen your home or take a more direct approach with steam instead.
- People with asthma can always use some extra support, so give them a facial treatment and breathing treatment simultaneously by adding a few drops to a steaming bowl of water and breathing in the vapors.
- Battle sinus infections and viruses alike by adding tea tree oil to your vaporizer – about ten drops should do the trick.
All about Bugs
With toxic pesticides found in and on our food and as the main chemical in traditional bug sprays, ever wonder how people survived insects in the past? Simple – they used homeopathic remedies and repellents.
- Tea tree oil serves as natural pest control for household insects, like ants. It deters them from entering your home with drops at the windows and doorways.
- Biting insects, such as mosquitoes, do not care for TTO and spraying a diluted mist (fifteen drops in about a ¼ cup of water) over your body will help keep them at bay.
- If you want to get fancy, there are recipes for more complex insect repellents available.
- Don’t’ forget your pup! Place a few diluted drops (1% dilution at most) of TTO on your dog’s collar once a week for an at-home flea collar. Never use TTO or any essential oil on your kitty though.
- Just like other skin irritations, tea tree oil is an effective treatment for bites from chiggers, fleas, and mosquitoes. Neat drops will sting temporarily but take heart and know the oil is working.
Tea tree oil also works as a great additive to cleaning solutions by fighting off bacteria, germ and fungus growth. It’s baby safe for cleaning and as a diluted treatment for diaper rash, so don’t limit yourself on uses. Get the most out of your oil by trying new ways to keep your life healthy – naturally.